- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today met with the three people still in the race to become the next U.S. president, then headed to the White House for the first time as head of state to talk to President Bush about Iran, Iraq and hamburgers.

Mr. Brown announced, at a Rose Garden press conference with Mr. Bush, that he is pushing within Europe for a new round of sanctions against Iran because of its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community.

“I make no apology for saying that we will extend sanctions where possible on Iran,” Mr. Brown said. “Iran has not told the truth to the international community about what its plans are.”

Mr. Brown said he is “talking to other European leaders about how we can extend European sanctions against Iran … in the next few weeks.”

Mr. Bush backed Mr. Brown’s comments only by saying that Iran has “proven themselves to be untrustworthy,” pointing to a secret nuclear weapons program that was halted in 2003 as evidence that Tehran is not enriching uranium only to make energy.

“Gordon Brown seriously sees the threat, as do I,” Mr. Bush said. “And now is the time to confront the threat. And I believe we can solve the problem diplomatically.”

Mr. Bush said it would be “naive” to think Iran could not transfer uranium enrichment knowledge from a civilian power program to a military program.

Before arriving at the White House, Mr. Brown met with all three U.S. presidential candidates at the British embassy, in a series of carefully scheduled meetings that lasted 45 minutes each.

Mr. Brown met first with Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and Sen.’s Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, arrived just as the previous meeting was ending.

Mr. Brown said he was “delighted” to meet with the three candidates.

“What I was convinced of, after talking to each of them and talking about the issues that concern them and concern the world, is that the relationship between America and Britain will remain strong, remain steadfast,” Mr. Brown said. “It will be one that will be able to rise to the challenges of the future.”

Mrs. Clinton said in a statement that she discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China, the global economy, and “expressed my confidence that the relationship between our two nations will continue to deepen as we confront a wide range global challenges and opportunities.”

White House spokesman Tony Fratto expressed approval of the meeting, saying that “it’s probably a wise move by the prime minister.”

Mr. Bush and Mr. Gordon met for about 90 minutes at the White House before holding their press conference outside.

The two leaders dismissed talk of a strained relationship between them, singing each other’s praises and then eating a social dinner together with their spouses.

“The world owes President George Bush a huge debt of gratitude for leading the world in our determination to root out terrorism and to ensure that there is no safe haven for terrorism and no hiding place for terrorists,” Mr. Brown said at the beginning of his opening remarks.

Mr. Bush, who shared an especially close bond with Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, said he and Mr. Brown are “making history together.”

“Our relationship is very special,” Mr. Bush said, speaking of his personal connection with the British leader as well as the bond between the U.S. and U.K. “That’s not to say you can’t have other friends, and we do. But this is a unique relationship, truly is.”

“Look, if it wasn’t a personal relationship, I wouldn’t be inviting the man to a nice hamburger or something. Well done, I might add,” Mr. Bush said, prompting laughter from the press.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Brown also spent time discussing the global economy, which has been weighed down by the U.S. housing and credit crunches, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After Mr. Brown became prime minister last summer, he began to withdraw British troops from southern Iraq, but has paused the withdrawal to help stabilize an area that has become a stronghold for Shiite militias and was the scene of intense fighting with government forces last month.

The U.S. is also waiting for response from Britain on whether they’ll take over NATO operations in the south of Afghanistan, which has seen heavy fighting.

In addition, Mr. Bush took aim at the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe for withholding the results of a March 29 election.

“You can’t have elections unless you’re willing to put the results out,” Mr. Bush said with obvious disdain. “What kind of election is it if you [do] not let the will of the people be known?”

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